Goaltending is an area that can often go underappreciated. It can be taken for granted sometimes and the end result is that when a team is missing both netminders, things can go sideways in a hurry. That’s exactly what happened with the Habs last week.
The Week That Was
Jan. 24: Wild 8, Canadiens 2 – Things got off to a good start for Montreal in this one when Mike Hoffman scored before the game was 90 seconds old. However, in what turned out to be a precursor for the whole week, Minnesota quickly tied it and they were off to the races. Cayden Primeau got the start but only made it through two periods before getting the hook with Michael McNiven taking over and not faring any better.
Jan. 27: Ducks 5, Canadiens 4 – Back on home ice, this game didn’t start well for the Habs as they were down by three in the first and Primeau got yanked after just 20 minutes. However, Montreal battled back and eventually got the deficit down to one when Laurent Dauphin scored on a penalty shot. The Canadiens peppered Anthony Stolarz with shots (a welcome change from the previous few games) but couldn’t manage to get the equalizer.
Jan. 29: Oilers 7, Canadiens 2 – This time, it was Samuel Montembeault’s chance to start and, well, he also didn’t do well, getting pulled after two periods. Evander Kane had his first goal and missed elbowing call as an Oiler (not that the missed penalty call would have affected the game one bit) and while the Habs actually did quite well shutting Connor McDavid down, they couldn’t stop anyone else. Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli scored in the losing effort.
Jan. 30: Blue Jackets 6, Canadiens 3 – For the second game in the week, the Habs scored just over a minute in when Nick Suzuki banked one in from behind the net. Things went off the rails soon after. Montembeault was quickly beaten three times, earning himself the hook before the ten-minute mark of the first period. Toffoli added one in the second and Artturi Lehkonen’s shorthanded goal in the third made it interesting but again, they weren’t able to tie it up and Columbus added a pair to secure the win.
Goals: Anderson/Suzuki/Toffoli (9)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (18)
Points: Nick Suzuki (27)
+/-: Sami Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (68)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (97)
News And Notes
– Joel Armia and Kale Clague both cleared COVID protocol and were able to rejoin the team. However, after being out for two weeks, Dominique Ducharme didn’t opt to throw them back in right away.
– David Savard will miss the next two months with an ankle injury sustained two weeks ago in Boston.
– Michael McNiven was placed on injured reserve retroactive to his appearance in Minnesota so it would appear he got hurt at some point in the period he played.
– Ben Chiarot now has the third-lowest plus/minus rating in the league at -25.
Last Game’s Lines:
Lehkonen – Suzuki – Toffoli
Byron – Evans – Anderson
Hoffman – Dauphin – Gallagher
Pitlick – Poehling – Pezzetta
Chiarot – Petry
Kulak – Clague
Romanov – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Beyond Nick Suzuki participating in the All-Star Game, that’s about it from the Habs over the next seven days. With that in mind, let’s look at the week that they’ll be coming back.
Feb. 8: vs New Jersey – It has been a tough year for most of the Devils as they find themselves at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. Jesper Bratt is one of the exceptions as he has been producing at close to the point per game mark this season as has Jack Hughes (when he has been healthy). Former Hab Tomas Tatar has struggled as of late – he has just 17 points on the season in 40 games and has been held off the scoresheet in eight straight.
Feb. 10: vs Washington – The Capitals are missing a pair of key forwards in Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie and have been scuffling a bit as of late having lost eight of their last 12. Alex Ovechkin has cooled off a little bit while Evgeny Kuznetsov, once speculated as a change of scenery candidate last season, is averaging over a point per game. While Vitek Vanecek has been better in goal as of late, he’s still platooning with Ilya Samsonov and as long as that’s happening, Washington will be speculatively inked to goalie upgrades in the coming week.
Feb. 12: vs Columbus – Yep, them again. There isn’t really a lot new to cover with the Blue Jackets considering we just saw them on Sunday. They might have Alexandre Texier back after he missed Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Joonas Korpisalo get the start again as Columbus tries to improve his trade value between now and the March 21st trade deadline.
Feb. 13: vs Buffalo – The removal of NHL players from the Olympics allowed for the Habs to get their Super Bowl matinee back although it’s far from an exciting matchup. The Sabres have been more competitive under Don Granato this season with Tage Thompson, in particular, starting to show why he was a first-round pick back in 2016. Even Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo have had decent years, sitting second and fourth in scoring, respectively. Both Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski recently returned, the latter from a lengthy battle with COVID-19.
In a season like this, the Habs shouldn’t be buyers. However, they need to go after a veteran goalie. Cayden Primeau needs to play a lot of minutes but as he has shown, he’s not ready for full-time NHL duty yet. (He’s also not supposed to be so his struggles shouldn’t be much cause for concern.) Samuel Montembeault is a third-stringer for a reason and isn’t someone that can play every night.
Now, I’m not saying they need to go and trade for an NHL backup goalie. I’m talking about a veteran third-stringer, someone like Aaron Dell or Malcolm Subban from Buffalo, Louis Domingue in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay’s Maxime Lagace, or J-F Berube in Columbus (and there are plenty of other options). These aren’t goalies that are going to steal many games (or potentially any games) but they should play respectably more often than not. More importantly, the presence of one of them would allow Primeau to go back to Laval and play heavy minutes which is what he needs from a development perspective.
Worth noting is that the Habs are at 48 contracts out of 50 and they’ll likely want to keep some slots open for deadline moves where they have to take players back plus college signings like Jordan Harris. That’s why Kevin Poulin isn’t on this list; ideally, they’re moving a role player from Laval or an end-of-roster player like Cedric Paquette to add that goalie. The Habs won’t be any better off with this in the standings but if it allows Primeau to play the minutes he needs to, they’ll be better off in the long run.